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Why won't Mitt Romney release more tax returns?

Despite pressure – even within his party – to release the tax returns, the Romney campaign is standing pat. Responding to critics, Anne Romney said: 'We've given all you people need to know.'

By Staff writer / July 19, 2012

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney gestures during a campaign stop on Wednesday in Bowling Green, Ohio.

Evan Vucci/AP

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Why won’t Mitt Romney release his tax returns? He’s getting hammered on this every day. Even some Republicans are predicting that he’ll have to release them eventually. Over at the conservative RedState website, editor Erick Erickson says it’s clear President Obama will try to make Mr. Romney’s tax returns an issue until November.

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Peter Grier is The Christian Science Monitor's Washington editor. In this capacity, he helps direct coverage for the paper on most news events in the nation's capital.

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Mr. Erickson writes today that he just wishes Romney would try to tie release of his returns to release of Mr. Obama’s college transcripts or more documents dealing with the Justice Department’s controversial Fast and Furious gun-walking incident.

“Romney might as well try to score some solid points on this before taking what will be spun, rightly or wrongly, as a hit. But we all know he’s going to cave,” writes Erickson.

Well, maybe. Ann Romney sounded Thursday as if the Romney camp is determined to ride this out. During an appearance on ABC’s Good Morning America she said that her husband has nothing to hide and that the fact he took no salary as governor of Massachusetts and gives 10 percent of his income to the Mormon Church shows he’s a “generous person.”

“We’ve given all you people need to know and understand about our financial situation and how we live our life,” said Mrs. Romney.

“You people”? Who are they? We think the answer to that might explain something of the Romney campaign’s attitude toward tax returns and transparency.

It’s our perception that “you people” means the news media, or possibly what Romney might call a liberal media/Democratic cabal. And the Romney campaign appears to think that they do not need to respond to demands from this group as fast, or as completely, as past candidates have believed.

Remember the whole Donald Trump thing? He was doubling down on assertions that Obama’s birth certificate is suspect at the same time he was set to hold a fundraiser with Romney. Democrats demanded he repudiate Trump, and the media chewed it over as only a Twitter-fueled 24-hour sound machine can.

Romney declined. He said only that he didn’t share Trump’s view. News leaks at the time indicated that the Romney camp thought that to disown Trump would show weakness, and in any case would only feed the controversy.

He seems to be treating the tax return question in the same way. In his view, it’s probable that producing more tax documents would only lengthen the pain, since the papers would produce lots of stuff for Obama researchers to investigate. And at this point, he can’t give in, or at least can’t give in quickly. It would look as if his response was being driven by pressure from the media and the Obama campaign. So he’s trying to ride out the Twitter storm, as he has done so far with Trump.

As it has from the beginning of the general election campaign, the Romney team is doggedly framing the election as a referendum on Obama and the economy. The challenger may not enter into it, in this view. A new CBS poll therefore must hearten Romney operatives – it shows the former Massachusetts governor ahead by 47 to 46 percent, though that slim lead is within the survey’s margin of error.

“At the end of the day, they’re going to fire the coach because things aren’t going well,” said Mrs. Romney on ABC.

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